NFL fans have been following the quarterback carousel for as long as players have been able to easily get on and off of it in the free agency era, but recently its increased its speed to straight “Gravitron” mode.
Nowhere was there better evidence of that immediacy in 2021 than the LA Rams unloading Jared Goff’s contract extension before it had even started and the Philadelphia Eagles then being able to move the quarterback who was drafted (and also extended) right behind him. There were 13 teams—40 percent of the league—that opted for a new starting quarterback in 2021. Imagine if 40-percent of the head coaches were changed...every year.
And that number is low, if anything.
Because it doesn’t include Trey Lance. Yet. It doesn’t include teams that are maybe even a little surprised that they ran it back with Daniel Jones or Tua Tagovailoa. Given how important it is to have a great quarterback (shall we check the current NFC playoff standings: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray on top, with Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, and Ryan Tannehill in the AFC) and the immediate flexibility to make a change at the position that has been proven by the Rams and Eagles, we might even seen more turnover at quarterback in 2022.
But not by LA manager Les Snead and that’s because he made his deal first.
When the Rams traded for Matthew Stafford barely less than a year ago, I predicted that it would be the best move by any team in 2021. If not the equal to the Bucs signing Tom Brady in 2020 (which we know it is not), then at least it would hold as better than anything you saw for the rest of the year. Think of it like Best Picture at the Oscars: No, you can’t compare Green Book to The Silence of the Lambs, we’re just saying, technically they both won!
By defeating the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, with Stafford going 14-of-14 for 162 yards during his second half comeback, the LA Rams improved to 12-4—their best record since having Goff, Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Rodger Saffold, Cooper Kupp, etc. in 2013, but before that their best record since 2003—and they now rank ninth in points scored.
Last season, the Rams ranked 22nd in points scored.
If that doesn’t seem like “enough to be worth two first round picks” to you, consider that the Rams had a lot less room to climb than any other team that made a change at quarterback last year. Snead recognized one thing above all: “Damn, we might actually be good enough to win the Super Bowl right now, with 40-year-old Andrew Whitworth, receivers who are creeping up to 30, right behind 30-year-old Aaron Donald, but we can’t do it with this quarterback. And if we wait even one year, the window could be closed.”
You don’t have to agree with the premise that Stafford will be able to lead the Rams to the Super Bowl—we know that has yet to be proven—but if you disagree with the idea that Goff would never win a Super Bowl without immense help, then we may not ever agree on anything. It’s not an insult to say you can’t carry a team to a Super Bowl and I’ll quote my favorite Italian chef on this one: “I only consider you scum compared to Krusty. Yeah, you see how you scum.”
Of the teams looking to make a change at quarterback last year, the Rams were the closest to the top so that meant that they kind of had to lure the best one that was available. Without question, that player was, is, and probably will continue to be Matthew Stafford.
Here are all 13 teams that made a change at quarterback in 2021 and some comparisons to how the team performed at quarterback in 2020. This is rudimentary, basic analysis and comparison, which I’m fine with, because I believe the teams and names will speak for themselves and you can draw your own conclusions. Placing these in order of win/loss differential year-over-year; though there is one game left this season, it is easier to compare now after 16 games.
9-7 Philadelphia Eagles - Jalen Hurts (prev: Carson Wentz)
Points per game: +5.2
Passing TDs: -6 (Rush TD by QBs: +2)
10-6 New England Patriots - Mac Jones (prev: Cam Newton)
Points per game: +7
Passing TDs: +11
12-4 Los Angeles Rams - Matthew Stafford (prev: Jared Goff)
Points per game: +4
Passing TDs: +18
7-9 Denver Broncos - Teddy Bridgewater (prev: Drew Lock)
Points per game: -0.8
Passing TDs: -1
New York Jets - Zach Wilson (prev: Sam Darnold)
Points per game: +3.5
Passing TDs: +4
Jacksonville Jaguars - Trevor Lawrence (prev: Gardner Minshew/Mike Glennon/Jake Luton)
Points per game: -5
Passing TDs: -15
6-10 Carolina Panthers - Sam Darnold/Cam Newton (prev: Teddy Bridgewater)
Points per game: -4
Passing TDs: -4
4-12 Houston Texans - Davis Mills/Tyrod Taylor (prev: Deshaun Watson)
Points per game: -8.1
Passing TDs: -15
6-10 Washington Football Team - Taylor Heinicke (prev: Alex Smith/Dwayne Haskins)
Points per game: +1
Passing TDs: +5
9-7 Indianapolis Colts - Carson Wentz (prev: Philip Rivers)
Points per game: -0.7
Passing TDs: +2
6-10 Chicago Bears - Justin Fields/Andy Dalton (prev: Nick Foles/Mitchell Trubisky)
Points per game: -5
Passing TDs: -9
2-13-1 Detroit Lions - Jared Goff (prev: Matthew Stafford)
Points per game: -5.6
Passing TDs: -7
8-8 New Orleans Saints - Trevor Siemian/Taysom Hill/Jameis Winston (prev: Drew Brees)
Points per game: -9.3
Passing TDs: -2 (Rush TD by QB: -3)